Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Shock the Monkey

Lyric courtesy of Peter Gabriel.

There were a lot of things that shocked me about my move to the south eleven years ago. The aforementioned sweet tea, the fact that everybody in Alabama moved sooooo slowly, and that there seemed to be so many people living in trailers. But nothing prepared me for a trip to the drugstore one day.

It wasn't too long after I'd made the move to Tuscaloosa from Kalamazoo, and I was still finding my way around town. I'd stopped in at a drugstore to buy some things, and while I was ruminating over more shine vs more body, this older white lady came up to me.

"Hey, let me ask you something."

I have since discovered in the south that when someone asks you this question, your best response is to run. Why? Well, because they don't really want to ask you something, they're just in a mood to spout off about something that's bothering them. But I was barely 21 years old, and still a newbie, so I had no idea what this woman wanted.

"Um, alright, go ahead and ask?"

"Why do you suppose they have to have two whole aisles of products for black people?"

And, no she didn't say black people, she used the N-word, and I'm not going to use it here. Cue record scratching in my head.

"Say what?"

"I mean, look at all that crap. What do they need it for? They too good to use our soap and shampoo? Or maybe they's just too dirty?" And this point she let out a raspy chuckle that sounded like a carton of cigarettes.

So, I decided to answer her question.

"Well, now you know, you got a whole store full of products for you white folks. I guess it's only fair we get a couple of aisles to ourselves."

"Do what now?"

"Well, I mean, I never much had this problem with my hair being the way that it is, but my Dad's white. But my momma, she always had a tough time finding stuff to use on her hair after she'd had the hot combs through it. Her hair was so coarse, and once it's straightened, it can break so easily. And most of the regular soaps she used left her skin all ashy. I know she loves the Queen Helene line, 'cause it's got cocoa butter in it. So, I guess it's nice that they've got a few products here. Up in Detroit, where I'm from, they've got whole stores. Makes it so much more convenient."

And I walked away.

Now, most of you are probably aware my mom is not black. But that summer, my hair was dark, and I was pretty tan from being outside. And that stupid old bitty made me mad. I know I'm a bad person for telling a lie.

But the look on that woman's face will be worth the price of admission to wherever I end up going.


The Rotten Correspondent said...

You're going to a much better place than she is, I can guarantee it. Telling a slightly fabricated untruth to tick off an a**hole doesn't lose you any karma points. In my book you gain them.

Good for you. I wish I could've seen it!

jen,seriously, what is this - dwsflmkl? it's like an explosion at a letter factory.

Jen said...

RC dwsflmkl: Dawes Film Kill.

I have no idea what that means, but you're married to a film geek. Maybe someone over-exposed the film?

auntie barbie said...

I can't help wondering what brought this topic up?
After growing up in suburban Detroit and moving to Texas at the tender age of 20 I never realized that segregation still existed.
Hopefully some habits die with generations.

Robot Lord of Tokyo said...


my two cents said...


Jillian said...

The funny thing, all, is that this is Jen. Seriously. She will come up with this stuff at the drop of a hat... and it makes me ROTFLMAO every time. Remember the orange soda, Jen?? THat might be almost 20 years old, but it still makes me laugh. Just as this will, I'm sure.

www.thegrandview.wordpress.com said...

That is a hysterical story. I think you get gold stars for your response.

Diana said...

I. LOVES. You. For. That.

I always get blindsided by such horribleness and then just stand there stammering while the good comebacks trickle in over the ensuing hours-to-days.

I wanna end up where you do.

Saphyre Rose said...

Living in Charleston, there are bigots of many races here.
I keep hoping that an enlightenment will happen and everyone will be just one heart and I know the chances of that are few and far between.

Assumption is the mother of all f**k ups. The little old bigot sure made one when she assumed all pale people are white!
I hate to think her opinion of Mexicans, Gays or the Irish.

JRH said...

That's a classic! My former mother-in-law was from Arkansas, and had similar views to your stupid old biddy friend there. We had numerous provacative discussions on the subject, although I'd of had a hard time passing as a black man - especially since she knew my folks. :-)

Jo Beaufoix said...

Ahh Jen you are amazing.

I'm still giggling.

I would never of had the guts or the quickness of mind to say that.

You are a star.

I think my codeword is what that evil c#w said in response...

'cgkiesjr' before she fell down in a faint.

Jen said...

auntie barbie, I was just thinking about how long I'd been in the south, how I'd kind of acclimated to everything. And I remembered that story. Detroit was kind of segregated, too, but I think it was more by individual choice.

RLOT, my two cents, Mike at The Grand View Many thanks for the kind words. The only thing that I could have done to make it better would have been to buy some Afro-Sheen, which is why I posted the pic. I only thought to do it after I'd left the store. Would've ruined the effect.

Diana, despite what Jillian says, I'm not always that quick witted. But I am a sarcastic and mean cuss if you tick me off. And that woman ticked me off. I LOVES you, too, and I hope your cold/virus/bacterial infection/plague is finished with.

Saphyre on more than one occasion I've been mistaken for being Mexican or Fillipino. The people who do this are usually very taken aback when I speak better English than they do. And always get confused when I pull out my green card!

jrh I don't know that I passed all that well. Even with a tan, I'm still kind of pale. But it was enough to confuse her.

Jo Ah, thanks Jo. Now you've got me giggling with the code word. And I'm not really a star, just a person who gets their dander up easily. Truth be told, if I was really brave, I would have just told the old bat I thought she was full of sh*t, and should go help her husband pick out a new pillowcase to wear. But I told a lie instead. Kind of cowardly, really.

Joy T. said...

I would have stood there with my mouth open not believing what I had just heard. Then I would have thought she was joking and probably turned around to look for some hidden camera. I think your come-back was much better.

Arm Jerker J said...

"I know I'm a bad person for telling a lie."
Girl no. I wish I was there to record it!
BTW, found your blog on The Grand View.
This post alone will make me come back!

Dad said...

It wasn't a lie. It was a lesson in truth. And yes, you are that quick witted. You always have been. Don't ever give it up.

Jen said...

Joy T. *bows* well, thank you. I kind of thought she was putting me on, but she looked serious. If she was kidding, she got an interesting lesson back.

arm jerker j Well, that's a hell of a name! Glad you stopped by!

Dad I guess I just don't feel all that quick some days. I suppose as long as it happens on the days when it matters, it's okay.